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Scotland Bill — Committee (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 21st March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour 6:30 pm, 21st March 2012

I completely agree with my noble friend. I think that needs to be made clear to Ministers. I was going to turn to the issue of one question or two questions in a moment. We need to set targets for our Ministers when they are negotiating and discussing with the Scottish Parliament. In Amendment 89, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, talks about the referendum being advisory or binding. There has been much discussion about whether any referendums have been advisory or binding. I think some have been advisory but have been accepted as binding. One target that we need to set the Minister is to decide that both Parliaments should agree in advance to accept the result of the referendum and follow it through with the necessary legislation as the will of the Scottish people.

That brings me to my Amendment 94C in this group. I want to deal with the wording of the question. Again, we need to set a target for our Ministers. The wording of the question proposed by the Scottish Executive is loaded; it is contrived to get the maximum result for a yes vote: "Are you in favour of an independent Scotland?". There is no indication what that means. It is a kind of, "Are you in favour of motherhood and apple pie?" question. I think it is the wrong way around. In two of the amendments that I have tabled, I suggest that the question should be the other way around:

"Do you want Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom?".

That is the key point. It changes the fact that those of us who are in favour of the union would be on the yes side of the argument rather than the no side, which I think would be helpful. It may be that some compromise can be worked out, but I certainly do not think that we should accept the wording that the Scottish Executive has put forward. I think that my suggested wording would be preferable and should be the starting point of the negotiations.

I turn to the point put to me by my noble friend Lord Reid: should there be a second question in the referendum? I think that, like the Government, we, as a Parliament, should make it clear that there should be no question on the referendum other than that which asks whether people are in favour or against separation-in favour or against remaining part of the United Kingdom. I reiterate what I said to my noble friend Lord Reid: that there should not be a second question because devolution and separation are two entirely different concepts.

Once we decide, as I hope we will, to remain part of the United Kingdom-this relates to a point that was raised earlier-we need to consider how much devolution there should be and whether the status quo is enough. By then, the status quo will be this Bill.